Nek Chand’s Rock Garden

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Walking through Nek Chand’s Rock Garden in Chandigarh, my head was flooded with memories of my first visit to this place, a weekend touring the city with my husband on the occasion of our first wedding anniversary. I remember seeing these spaces through his eyes, discovering with him the charming piles of stones and old porcelain pipes and broken terracotta bowls. Exciting and magical and new. It had just rained, the shower bringing a modicum of cool relief from the otherwise heavy and hot air of mid-August.

Today was warm, but cool in the shade. Breezy even. Swarms of students and families and tourists wandered through the garden, pausing to take photos on the concrete bridge or to squeeze themselves through a narrow passage, surrounded by walls piled high with layers and layers of gray river rocks.

My aunt told me about the first time she visited the rock garden, in 1978 or 79, when Nek Chand still lived on the site and nothing was set in concrete, just gravel paths, twisted roots, branches, plants, earth, and found objects. No Rs. 20 entrance fee, no public toilets, no gift shop. Just an old man with some space by the lake and a penchant for sifting through junk to make something beautiful.

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